In 2014, down 2-0 late in the third, Brianne Jenner scored to draw Canada within one, assisted by Meaghan Mikkelson and Jocelyne Larocque. One post later, Haley Irwin and Rebecca Johnston helped Marie-Philip Poulin score the game-tying goal. Laura Fortino would do the same in overtime.
It’s not like they went into hibernation, only to pop up again in 2018 to put on a sequel to what is recognized as one of the most entertaining events at the Winter Olympics. They keep playing throughout the entire year, a lot of them, right in our own backyard.
- Jenner finished up at Cornell before joining the Calgary Inferno, winning a Clarkson Cup.
- Mikkelson resumed playing for the Inferno (have played for them in their previous incarnation, the Alberta Honeybadgers), and winning a Clarkson Cup.
- Larocque went to the Brampton (now Markham) Thunder, having played for the Honeybadgers the season before.
- Irwin joined the Inferno, missing one full season due to injuries, but ultimately returning to play before the Olympic year.
- Johnston joined the Inferno (having previously played for the Toronto Furies), winning a Clarkson Cup.
- Poulin finished up at Boston University before joining the Montreal Canadiennes, winning a Clarkson Cup.
- Fortino joined the Brampton (now Markham) Thunder.
Seven players picked up points in the enthralling comeback. Four of them have been very easy for anyone in Calgary to go watch and support any given hockey season. And another five – Bailey Bram, Jill Saulnier, Blayre Turnbull, Brigette Lacquette, and Genevieve Lacasse – have also been right there, playing alongside them the entire time, easy to watch year in, year out.
The Larocques and Poulins and Fortinos will come into town each season to play; over the course of a season, fans will be afforded the chance to watch all the stars in person. But these are nine Olympians – nine hockey players – who have been playing right in Calgary on a regular basis, most for years. Two of them just combined on an Olympic goal.
And that isn’t even counting the Erica Kromms, the Jacquie Pierris, the women who have been playing at a high level for years but just aren’t Olympic caliber, but still suit up game in, game out in search of a league championship. They’re there, too. They deserve the support, too. They put on an entertaining product, too.
Not every game is going to be Olympic gold medal caliber, just like more often than not, men’s games will not be up to snuff. But Olympic caliber games simply do not happen without these athletes continuing to train and play on a regular basis in between the years. It’s simply not possible. And in the meantime, those games provide just as much joy as any other regular season hockey game one can probably look at. And the more attention, the more money they get, the better the events from top to bottom – from regular season games to Olympic gold – will be, each and every time.
The best events of the Winter Olympics do not happen without the women’s leagues. These women will not disappear until 2022; they will be there, still playing hockey, over the years in between. And Calgary, a lone hub of professional women’s hockey in western Canada, will be where many of them will hone their craft.
The Inferno close out their regular season home schedule this weekend, Saturday at 5 p.m. MT and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. MT, both at Winsport’s A arena. They are firmly in the hunt to host home playoff games. They have been to back-to-back championships and, undoubtedly, will be striving for another.